Today I watched an episode of West Wing where one of the plots concerned funding for NASA. This
is the quote that got me:
"Voyager, in case it's ever encountered by extra-terrestrials, s carrying photos of life on Earth, greetings in 55 languages and a collection of music from Gregorian chants to Chuck Berry. Including "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground" by '20s bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, whose stepmother blinded him when he was seven by throwing lye in is his eyes after his father had beat her for being with another man. He died, penniless, of pneumonia after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that burned down. But his music just left the solar system."
The 55 languages include ancient Greek, Latin, Tamil, and four dialects of Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Amoy, and Wu). I don't know why I thought that was so cool.
Music selections include aboriginal songs, traditional songs of so-called primitive peoples, Bach, Mozart, and Louis Armstrong. Carl Sagan (the chair of the committee to decide what to put on the record) also wanted Here Comes the Sun
from the Beatles, but their record label EMI opposed it, which is just about the stupidest thing I will hear all week. Isn't there a fair use provision for shooting a copyrighted work into space? I did find this disclaimer on the Wikipedia
"Originally based on public domain text from the NASA website, where selected images and sounds from the record can be found. However, much of the material from the Voyager records is available in compiled form only to extraterrestrials for copyright reasons."
Which is okay, I guess.
I'm getting off track here. All this is to say, I work in news. Top news today: a man stealing computers
from a public school system and selling them on Craigslist. Iran is apparently testing a missile that can reach Israel
. I see every day what men can do, in the worst possible way, and only rarely what we can do in the best possible way. We are capable, though, of so much more, of science to tell us about what's around us and art to tell us about ourselves, of awe inspiring kindness and charity and courage. More than that, though, is what a story of greatness can inspire in an open mind or fertile spirit.
As I write this, the space shuttle Atlantis is in the home stretch of its last journey; the shuttle fleet will be retired next year, and its replacement is still in the design stage. This project, Project Constellation
, is designed to once more take us out of Earth orbit back to the Moon, and one day to Mars. I could have a child who could one day walk on another planet.
Excuse me, I need to go kiss my wife.